PALATKA, Fla. — Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., wearing shiny black cowboy boots and a suit, was prepared to defend his opposition to President Trump’s health care overhaul to dozens of his conservative, Trump-backing constituents at a town hall Tuesday night.
But Yoho, a former large-animal veterinarian who towers above most of his constituents, found he didn’t really have to.
“The Freedom Caucus? Yes, I’m a member of that,” he answered one man who asked if he was planning to influence the health care debate going forward as a member of the conservative group. “I think we wield a pretty big stick.”
Trump has used his own influence to take aim squarely at the Freedom Caucus, using Twitter to urge his millions of followers to “fight” Democrats and the conservative group in the upcoming elections.
The new president was angry after the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare failed to gain enough support for a vote. The Freedom Caucus’ approximately 40 members were among the loudest Republican critics of the bill, though about half eventually said they would vote for the legislation under pressure from Trump.
Yoho was one of the holdouts, refusing to buckle and support the plan.
Many of the people who came out to see Yoho at his town hall, in solidly red Putnam County, were ardent Trump supporters, but few blamed Yoho for opposing the unpopular bill.
“I totally supported Congressman Yoho being against that health care bill,” said Kalena, a local resident who declined to give her last name. “It was crap.”
Kalena didn’t blame the president for the failure to repeal Obamacare, either.
“I think [House Speaker] Paul Ryan convinced the president that we needed to move faster than we needed to,” she said. “I think that’s probably the first time in Donald Trump’s life that he was disappointed.”
“Ted ran on doing away with health care, and he felt that [the bill] was just a Band-Aid,” said Fred Moulton, a local cattle rancher.